October 2020

Pruning Dock Images

Anker PowerExpand Elite Thunderbolt 3 Dock

That Thunderbolt 3 dock I bought arrived before the new Mac (currently promised by Friday). Since it is fully functional (just slower) with a USB-C MacBook, I tried it out. The good news is that it’s much faster and more stable than any of the mini-docks I’ve used. Some of that is due to having a real power supply rather than relying on a standard Apple power brick, but it also runs cooler and has a better Ethernet chipset, avoiding the problem of random bus resets when you try to do something like rsync a USB SSD to a NAS, which was always annoying with the 12-inch MacBook’s single USB-C port.

The only downside so far is that Anker’s firmware updater only runs on a Windows machine with Thunderbolt 3. Which I don’t have, and likely won’t until the middle of next year. Hopefully they’ll release a Mac version soon, which they have for some of their other products. I suppose I could set up Boot Camp on the new Air, and just not bother activating Windows for the brief time I’ll be using it (although a Win10 Home license only costs me $24).

Second-most exciting Amazon order this week…

Okatsune Pruners. It might not excite you, but after struggling to prune bamboo with a pair of crappy hardware-store clippers, I sprung for the good stuff. I have a good pruning saw for thick culms, but it doesn’t handle the little dead branches as well.

Must be Thursday

Apple software update causing data loss (iOS/Watch edition)

October Surprise

Improve Your Word Power

So it turns out that transindifferentia is a perfectly good Latin construct for the reality of what’s falsely labeled “transphobia”. Modern activists need to feel oppressed because they can’t handle the reality that, by and large, society doesn’t really give a damn what they do or how they live. It’s their in-your-face demands for praise that provoke the negative reactions they then point to as proof that they’re hated and feared.

Transincuria works, too, and of course you can substitute other prefixes commonly spot-welded to -phobia.

“Thanks, I just had it stuffed.”

Can't Unsee That, Windy City edition

She’s no Remo

The mayor of Chicago showed up at a news conference cosplaying a pack of Clorox wipes, as The Corona Destroyer.

“Who was that masked lunatic?”

Dear Reportlab…

When your product is a commercially licensed document-production Python library that costs a minimum of $1,705 per year (with a stripped-down open source version on the side), one would think you’d keep your own documentation current. Instead, I keep tripping over references to files that are either missing or misplaced, even after registering to download a trial of the commercial version.

Send $20 to avoid ripoffs…

Just got an email from Bank of America with the following subject line:

J, be alert. Hackers are targeting home networks like yours.

It contains a prominent hyperlink button labeled “Stop fraud now”.

Permit me to point out that this is exactly what a “hacker targeting my home network” would do…

(it was a legit email, by the way, with both the envelope headers and the body links all going to consistent BoA-owned domains; but how do I know that without careful inspection?)

China to Hong Kong to Taiwan to Alaska to Kentucky to California

Courtesy of UPS, my new laptop is getting more vacation travel than I’ve had this year. It’s still supposed to make it to my house today, despite having just arrived at Oakland at 5am this morning.

Um, Apple?

Why is this running on my Mac right after a reboot?

find /private/var/folders ! -name *SafariTechnologyPreview* -name *com.apple.Safari* -exec rm -r {} ;

I’d ask why lsd and tccd (and cloudd and SafariBookmarkAgent and suggestd and…) are chewing holes in the CPU for ten minutes after reboot, but that’s not a new problem.

(I will not be migrating my existing installation to the new one; this might improve things slightly…)


For the ghouls salivating at the thought of Trump’s imminent demise by Corona-chan, testing positive does not mean death, hospitalization, serious illness, or even sniffles. Most likely it just means that Biden’s handlers can cut back on the ritalin for a week or so.

Although it’s tempting to spread a rumor that Trump’s medical team believes that bathing in the blood of rioters and looters is a sure-fire Covid cure…

Smoke gets in my eyes

Oh, look, the wind shifted and Silicon Valley is covered in smoke and ash again. Thanks, California “forest management”!


One of these fonts is not like the others...

AI: not a big fan

The big feature in FontExplorer X Pro 7 is, and I quote, “the all-new, AI-powered Discovery Engine”. The first thing it discovered was my new laptop’s CPU fans, which spun up to full speed for what felt like days but was probably only hours.

Spoiler: if you ask it what fonts are similar or would pair well, the suggestions are displayed alphabetically, and you can’t see the original at the same time to evaluate how well, say, Adobe Caslon pairs with Rigid Square. No kidding, that was on the list. So was Helvetica Ultra Light Condensed Oblique.

Amusingly, Lithos is only similar to knockoffs of Lithos, and should only be paired with knockoffs of Helvetica. 😁

(and yes, my font library includes two full suites of knockoffs, rescued from my archives as I consolidated everything onto the Synology NAS: the CorelDraw 7 bundle and the infamous Bay Animation shovelware CD, via DynaCom; I don’t actually have any real use for them, since I can get pretty much anything through my Adobe CC subscription)

90% migration

The only major thing I haven’t migrated from the old MacBook to the new Air is email. Mostly because there are still reports of significant bugs in the Catalina version of Mail.app with importing large mailboxes, especially ones that go back multiple releases. So I’m exporting everything over about 3 months old into my EagleFiler archive, to minimize the potential loss.

After that, I’ll strip all the migrated apps and data off of the old machine, de-cruft it as much as possible to free up space, and virtualize it so I can run my (many) abandoned 32-bit apps.

GPU Impact

The website for the online freemium RPGlike Genshin Impact is a cleverly disguised load test. And the invasive “anti-cheat” system was recently patched so that it only takes over your PC while the game is running, instead of “always”. Or you could play it on an iPad, where only Apple gets to monitor your every breath.

I like using Amber as the PoV character, since she wears hot pants. This satisfies the well-known “if I’m going to stare at a cartoon ass for hundreds of hours” constraint. Not that Lisa’s view is dull

Note: much like anime, switch the voices to Japanese for a better experience. Since you get subtitles for all quest dialog anyway, there’s no loss of information. The iOS client is playable, but mostly useful for crafting and non-combat quests.

Olive Garden Hentai

The Gods Must Be Evil Maids


The Japanese title for the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy” was コイサンマン (“man of the Khoikhoi/San people”). I just learned this, because the Amazon Prime video version of the movie has the Japanese box art. Adding to the goofiness, the “trailer” is just a random scene of some of the side characters, with a completely different tone from the core of the film.

Apple and the Evil Maid

Apple left a debug interface open on their T2 security chip, potentially allowing anyone with physical access to your laptop to tracelessly hijack it, even with full-disk encryption (by keylogging your password).

Be careful to distinguish between the evil maid attack and naughty maid attacks; the latter only happen in anime.

Woot Stereotyping

Quarantine all the things!

Catalina .out

Downloaded a new version of Hugo from Github on my new MacBook Air, and it wouldn’t run, because it was not branded with the Mark Of The Apple. You can force any app (even CLI-only) to run by right-clicking them from a Finder window and begging for permission to run unsigned apps. But it seems silly to have to switch from keyboard to mouse just to run a command-line tool from the command-line, so I wrote the trivial script openanyway:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
xattr -c "$1"
exec "$@"

This probably won’t be enough in the upcoming Big Brother Sur release.

This does not remove all extended attributes, because in Catalina, there’s a brand new “this specific application can always open this file” attribute called com.apple.macl, which you can see but not touch.

Dear Amazon,

This almost makes sense…

Cry, bully

Just received a letter from NANCY PELOSI (all caps). The outside of the envelope reads:

John, someone had to stand up to the bully in the White House.

Dear NANCY, all the masks are off, and we’ve seen who the bully in the House is. I’m not planning to open this… missive, because I’m not sure my sewer pipes can handle the load.

2020 continues to suck…

California has guaranteed election-month chaos by promising to count ballots postmarked by the 3rd that arrive up to 17 days later.

…or until they decide they’ve manufactured enough.

IMHO, the choice is pretty stark this year: you can have Western Civilization or Kamala Harris, but not both. Definitely not both.

Unicorn Chaser, Red Half-rim Edition

Load-testing Jira with Gatling

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing some simple load-testing of Jira instances using Gatling. Detailed sample code after the jump, because I couldn’t find anyone else’s and I’ve got decent pagerank.


Brought to you by the letter I

Ball joints

The trending Pixiv tag [#I字バランス](https://www.pixiv.net/en/tags/I 字バランス/artworks?mode=safe) (“leg-hold pose”, literally “letter-I balance”) separates the artists who know anatomy from the ones who really don’t understand how legs are attached to the body.

The Seven Deadly Virtualizations

I’m finally off of my old 12-inch MacBook. The nearly-last step was stripping down the install and virtualizing it. The plan was to create a new Mojave virtual in VMware, add a second disk big enough to hold the old install, mount the old machine in target disk mode, clone from A to B, shut down the virtual, and swap the drives in its config file. I have done this before, and it worked.

This time, the perfectly good OS install image booted up but refused to install, insisting the installer (created with Apple’s official tools) was “damaged”. Never mind that that exact same ISO had been successfully used to install Mojave twice before…

However, while it refused to just install the OS, it was happy to format the disk and restore a Time Machine backup onto it. So I booted the old machine back up, fed it a freshly-formatted USB disk, waited, attached my shiny new TM backup to the virtual, and said “go for it”. It happily launched the OS installer it had claimed was damaged, installed Mojave, upgraded it to match the release the backup had been made with, and then restored all my data onto it. Except /usr/local, because why would I ever want that?

(because my shell was set to /usr/local/bin/bash, of course…)

I can’t run any of my 32-bit games on this virtual (because Apple has never exposed APIs in a way that VMware or any other virtualization software can use to provide decent graphics performance), but everything else works, and the only games that worked on the MacBook will run fine on any of my Windows boxes.

Or on the Mac Mini I’m leaving at Mojave. I’m keeping the virtualized MacBook on the Air for a while, so I can pull anything off of it that might have been missed in my manual migration, but eventually I’ll move it to the Mini as well.

Counting the stripped-down image I just made, I now have five separate backups of the MacBook, so it’s safe to scrub that machine completely, install Catalina, and use it as the lightweight sterile Japan-vacation laptop.

In the Spring. Because the borders are still pretty darn closed right now, with no end in sight. (TL/DR: camp out at the Consulate to get an appointment for a new visa, and if they issue one, show up at the airport with the right kind of negative Covid test result issued in the previous 72 hours)

On that note, I added the Planyway add-on to my vacation-planning Trello board, and it dramatically sped up the task of moving the trip from November to March. Even at the free tier, it’s basically the calendar that Trello should have already had built in; it not only allows you to drag items onto the calendar from your lists, but it has an honest-to-gosh Day view.

Another foreign agent endorses Biden

This time, Scoldilocks. It’s nice that she catalogs her mental issues to reinforce the context of her recommendation. Honestly, as susceptible as she is to outside influences, I’m surprised she hasn’t transitioned yet.

Dear Apple,

In Catalina’s Mail.app, if you toggle off “Organize by Conversation”, it is incapable of viewing the messages marked as part of a conversation. Click on one of them, you see the correct body; navigate to another with mouse or keyboard, and you continue to see the body of the first. You have to go to a message that’s not part of the current “conversation”, then go back to see the next message. This behavior is only possible if no one ever bothered to QA what happens when you turn this option off.

Apparently if you want to see a simple list of messages sorted by date, author, etc, you’re holding it wrong.

Party like it's 2020

Flash! Aaa-aaaaah!

Y’know, I’ve almost missed the Adobe critical-security-update emails I used to send to the entire company every week or two. Here’s today’s reminder that Flash is bad; delete it.

Dear Amazon,

Rennet, starch, and twine? Your definition of party supplies is a bit different from mine.


Nobody tell this foxgirl that it’s still 2020…

Now with heated keys!

Bought a supposedly-new-in-box gaming keyboard on Woot, with warranty. It’s the sort that has two USB connectors, to power the pretty backlighting and supply a data connection for the one-port hub that you attach your mouse to.

The hub works. The keyboard doesn’t. On three different machines. And it gets really, really hot. Guess I’ll be exercising that warranty…

🎶 Whistle while you… eat brains

Butcher's Bill

Harry Get Your Gun

I’ll need to re-read Battle Ground at leisure, just to catch everything that’s been stuffed into this novel like a turkey full of Christmas presents and explosives.

My mental picture of Butcher writing this book has him hunched over his keyboard at the end of a three-year bender, sounding like Captain Kirk: “Can’t… stop… dogpiling on Harry. Must make… everything… bigger. Too many… secrets!”

Seasonal Reminder

If you hate half the people in the country, you’re the bigot.

If you mobilize the full force of both traditional and social media to bury and discredit a story in a way that would shame a Soviet-era Pravda editor, you’re definitely the bad guys.

Fly The Upskirt Skies!

Judging from the Pixiv charts, the Genshin Impact producers have carefully studied certain successful shipgirl games and made sure their female characters are all waifu-worthy fanart-bait. I think I’ve unlocked some male characters, but I just send them out on jobs, and use the jailbait fetish princesses for questing. I think the artists have managed to give every girl distinctive underwear, which you get a good look at when they use the glider or climb walls. Which you do a lot of.

Amusingly, the built-in camera feature is disabled in flight mode.

"Now make her do the crawl action."

"She doesn't need to crawl."

"Trust me."

REST easy, Cloudflare

Apparently they’ve turned DDoS protection on for the Pixiv API server, since it’s currently rejecting all requests and demanding a CAPTCHA. Which my Python scripts do not appreciate.

The Apple User Experience

An alert box I’ve never seen before pops up while I’m doing something else, warning me about a connection attempt from a device that I need to confirm with the supplied passcode. By the time I’ve parsed the message that the device is my phone (which has been happily syncing to this Mac for two weeks now) and crossed the room to get it, the alert and its magic passcode have vanished.

There was nothing on the phone’s screen to indicate that it had requested some form of access or was waiting for a passcode. I guess I’ll just have to wait for it to happen again and hope that I have both devices within a foot of each other and am not actively using either for something that would be disrupted by random context switching.

Back To School: 2020

Hey kids, comics!

Genius, Buck

Studio Foglio has a Bundle of Holding containing all the collected Girl Genius comics and novels, and the first two Buck Godot volumes. Sadly, the Gallimaufry series is not included, although it’s possible to find mostly-complete archives of the web version.

A Day Without Zoom…

The virtualized conference for the American Kumihimo Society is over, which restores my Saturdays to a Zoom-free experience. It was a great experience, even with the pain of watching a bunch of crafters cope with the quirks of trying to give presentations on a platform that barely works for tech folks. I was not the only male participating (“Hi, Randy!”), which is refreshing for a crafting event.

In many ways, the experience was superior to typical in-person conferences, since there was only one track spread out over three Saturdays and it was all (theoretically) recorded, so you didn’t have to scramble to get into a class with a popular instructor. Also that whole flying-with-bulky-braiding-equipment experience (one of many reasons I drove to last year’s retreat at Mount Hood).

One of the new things for this conference was a severely cost-reduced baby takadai. No, not mine, although some of the limitations of this one have me itching to steal some elements from my design to improve theirs. There are a lot of criticisms I could make, but for now, I’ll simply say that you can get it to work pretty well with practice, sandpaper, and painter’s tape. And a few spare parts you might find around the house:

The yarn-wrapped thread spools are there to create a proper “sword pad”, the blue tape is to hold it stable and cover the edges I haven’t smoothed with sandpaper yet. Not quite visible are the two short dowels keeping the koma (the peg-encrusted half-rounds) from moving too far forward in their tracks.

Cutting remarks

Speaking of Zoom, in a recent informal group meeting, someone threatened to not only implement something in Perl, but to do it the Perl 4 way. I cheered this idea, including remarks about my shameless past with Perl 2.

Leading someone to say, “don’t make me come down there and stab you”, which I countered with something along the lines of not bringing a knife to a swordfight.

Leading that person’s manager to message me asking what style I study, and which local sword instructors I’m acquainted with (she studies with one of the early Shinkendo instructors who forked off in the Nineties).

Running scared...

Just now, I received a spam text message from MoveOn. It included a picture with the words “HELP US FIGHT TRUMP’S SECRET WEAPON”, and the following sentences:

Hi, John, it’s Colt with MoveOn. New data shows that Donald Trump is using YouTube to gain an under-the-radar advantage in the election. As people stay home and stream videos more than ever, YouTube may play an even more influential role than Facebook.

To defeat Trump, we must counter his YouTube advantage. Will you chip in $3 a week to help MoveOn create videos and use advanced analytics to precision-target high-potential voters in 17 battleground states? [URL deleted]

(Reply STOP to unsubscribe.)

Note that they don’t ask for $3/week “until the election is over”; this is an ongoing donation that they hope you’ll just forget about.

And despite clear evidence that Big Tech has their lips firmly planted on Joe Biden’s ass, with a bit of tongue left over for Kamala Harris’, they’re really, really hoping nobody’s heard about that, even after the events of last week.

Vaguely related, Idolmaster girl Airi Totoki offers Trump the full, firm support of her secret weapons:

Pigeons, Poisoned

Lyrics want to be free!

Tom Lehrer has (awkwardly) released the lyrics to all of his songs into the public domain or something like it. Music to follow in some fashion. Note that the website will self-destruct at the end of 2024, unless it lives forever at archive.org, which is currently snapshotting it.

And that’s why it should still be a Control key…

Flatpack koma

In my original idea for a cost-reduced takadai, I decided to completely replace the standard routed grooves in each arm with offset dowels, so that the koma (thread-carriers) could just be simple flat combs.

With the baby takadai that a bunch of us recently bought for the workshop, though, the grooves are already there, so I want to replace the supplied koma with improved ones. Without using a router table or a drill press.

Remembering my flat comb design, I suddenly realized that one simple change would make it work with the grooves: a mortise/tenon joint.

It’s a simple 2D CNC job: cut parts, insert comb through base, glue, lightly sand edges, use. For the babydai, total length is only 1.75 inches, so I can fit a bunch onto the Nomad’s 8x8-inch work area. And most of the “sanding” work can actually be done with a finish pass on the Nomad with a round bit; I’d just have to sand the edges on the other side of the fingers.

Idol Impact

In Genshin Impact, Barbara is not only the head priestess of the First Church of The First Region, but also a wannabe local idol, and the first water-element character I managed to unlock.

My default party is now “Traveler” (omnichick), Xiangling (fireloli), Barbara (waterloli), and Fischl (electrololi), all at level 40 with level 40 3-star weapons. As needed, I switch in Noelle (geomaid), Amber (hotpants), Lisa (electrobabe), and, sadly, Kaeya (cryoboy). Because I haven’t unlocked a frozen female yet.

I have three more characters I’ve only used for ore-digging jobs; one cryoelectro, one hydro, and one fire, all male. The only reason I’d swap them into the party is that I’m running into hidden chests where you need to activate multiple pillars with a specific element in N seconds, and my regulars can’t activate their elemental power fast enough.

I could unlock a few more if I were willing to spend cash, but there’s a really high chance of just getting a bunch of useless weapons in a gacha pull, so they haven’t given me a good reason to. I did give them a one-time $4.99 for N/day currency for a month. If it holds my interest for a full month, maybe I’ll do that again.

Oh, and my avatar name is “Shimatsuke”, which looks like Japanese meaning “island invoice”, but was actually the output of my random word generator fed with Japanese samples.

I accidentally got into auto-matched co-op once as part of an event, and since I didn’t explicitly turn it on, I didn’t know how to get back out. At the end of each round, it asked me if I wanted to join or not, but not if I wanted to exit the match entirely. Since I didn’t know that there was a co-op icon up in the corner of the screen, I didn’t click on it, and they ended up having to kick me out.

Bit of a UI issue there, especially since the reason I wanted to exit was that I’d run out of the currency required to open the loot at the end of the round, so it was pointless to stay.

Chronicles Of The End Times

Dear Pokemon Company,

Sorry, can’t catch them all in the new DLC this weekend. Too busy slaughtering hilichurls with Team Loli.

…assuming everything comes back after the big update. Seriously, you let Paimon in the data center? What were you thinking?

One for the little people

Disney+ is making a Willow series.

“‘I dwell in darkness without you,’ and it went away?!?” – Sorsha

No, not them

I have to stop every time I see references to Abode Camera, and remind myself that this physical product isn’t coming from the same people who make Adobe Camera Raw…

Tactical Grading

When I saw all the headlines about the San Diego schools changing their grading system to “Combat Racism”, I briefly thought that was the name of their new system. It certainly describes the modern Left’s core values of bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and violence, which the teacher unions are vocal promotors of.

Maid Impact

Noelle is a plate-armored battle maid with a terrific damage shield, a spinning AoE claymore attack, and pantyhose. Which come as quite a surprise the first time you take her gliding, since her costume is otherwise modest and, well, armored. Turns out she’s actually just wearing plate thigh-high stockings and gloves over black skintight nylon, making her just as much of a naughty girl as the others.

In any other year, I’d be looking forward to (some of) the cosplayers, but now I just have to hope the game is still getting attention in 2021…

Sugar, free

Vorish Art

The Spanish publisher for the Vorkosigan-verse novels commissioned a coordinated set of cover illustrations that’s, well, different:

I think Ethan of Athos could be a real conversation-starter.


Last night, I consolidated and de-duped (almost) all of my (digital) photo archives into Lightroom, using Avalanche. As soon as they support Apple’s Photos app, I’ll be able to merge in the last few old iPhoto libraries that were scattered across multiple Macs. The downside was that copying everything onto my MacBook Air first really screwed up my Time Machine backups and snapshots for a few days. Good thing I got the 2TB SSD.

Related, all the image processing still took so long that I got this close to pulling the trigger on a tricked-out Asus ZenBook Pro Duo. The Air is great for a lot of things, but a graphics powerhouse it is not.

Maybe now I’ll actually start processing pictures from last spring’s Japan trip. 😁

Related, we’ve just rebooked for a 16-day/night trip in Spring 2021. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed that Japan will let us in. For this visit, I’ve penciled in side trips to Nagoya, Kamakura, and Nikko.

No Witnesses

I hadn’t thought about this benefit of lockdowns, mostly because when the JWs knock on my door, they usually leave immediately when they realize I don’t speak Spanish.

Half-rim Gacha

I had accumulated enough of the various non-cash-based currencies in Genshin Impact to manage another 10x gacha pull. I got eight unimpressive weapons, a new 4-star character (Sucrose, air-halfrims), and a new 5-star character (Klee, bomberloli).

I want to file a bug report that Sucrose’s half-rim glasses are not a proper red:

Maybe next weekend…

The new Pokemon Sword/Shield DLC is live (and they’ve helpfully released new DLC-included versions of the games, in case you just now decided to catch them all), and I haven’t even turned on my Switches yet to download it. I suppose I should, if only to claim the set of hat-wearing-Pikachu codes they’re distributing. Come to think of it, though, I’ve never used a Pikachu in this game. Or an Eevee.

Don't burn the witch!

This is aligned with my interests…

They really are this stupid

And they hope you are, too.

Be kind, rebind!

PSA - the command to detach a GNU screen (Control-A Control-D) is the same command in Outlook that selects all your email… and then deletes all of your email. Fun times. – Robert Hansen

I’ve never been able to use the default Control-A setup for Screen, because I run Emacs. I changed it to Control-R many years ago, because I do reverse searches a lot less often than “go to beginning of line”.

Don’t order the orange…

The Super Sonico Café secret menu:

I don’t have one of these yet

Qiqi is currently the only female cryo-user (loli catgirl Diona is apparently “coming soon”) in Genshin Impact, so until I manage to get her in a gacha pull, I’m stuck with a male character for that element.

Sadly, she’s a zombie loli, so she’ll never grow up…

Dear Amazon,

And here I thought the recommendation engine had settled down a bit…

Zen and the Art of Republic Maintenance

“​…battling gangs for local charities”


How do you sit?

Burning down the house

Coming soon...

Coming soon…

The realization that I’ll be working from home until June came with a moment of clarity: I can do lengthy 3D cnc/print jobs every day. I have an excellent CNC router that doesn’t get nearly enough use, but I’ve stayed out of the additive 3D market until now. Well, not so much “now” as Friday, when my new Dremel 3D45 arrives.

Naturally I bought this just as Dremel is updating their filament product line to increase spool capacity by 50%, so most flavors are out of stock everywhere. There’s probably also still some covid supply-chain issues, although I think everyone who was going to print PPE and mask-holders at home already has.

Why the Dremel? I don’t want a kit, I don’t want a MakerBot, and the Prusa has a 3-4 week lead time (and an open frame, which I don’t like, but it’s highly recommended for print quality). For a brief moment I entertained the thought of splurging on a Form 3, but then I came to my senses. Something to do with needing a separate consumable resin tank for each type and color of resin that you use. Also several liters of 90%+ isopropyl alcohol, nitrile gloves, and good ventilation.

Coming soon…

My neighbors rented a bouncy castle over the weekend. I’m not sure who they had over; the music didn’t seem particularly small-child-friendly, so I’m guessing tweens. If Corona-chan spikes in the neighborhood next week, I’ll have a pretty good guess as to why.

Amusing note: the only prior association I had with that song was a short video of dancing Korean camgirls sent to me by Brickmuppet a while back.

Speaking of random spikes:

Coming soon…

I need to reinstall some of the Windows software on my old gaming laptop (Carbide3D, VCarve, Gearotic, etc), but I’ve already dusted off my OpenSCAD scripting and started designing parts to improve the baby takadai. Some of them will be easier to do on the printer than the router, such as “traditional” koma, which would be a two-sided 3D job on the Nomad but a quick print on the Dremel.

The second babydai mod will be more elaborate, and I’ll prototype it on the Dremel. If I want to make it stronger and better-looking, I’ll cut it on the Nomad, but only after I finalize the design.

There are three key problems with the current design: the torii is placed about an inch too far forward (limiting your ability to beat the weft into place), the sword pads are 3/4-inch too low, and the take-up reel is too narrow (limiting how wide a braid you can make). That is, just trying to do the basic plain-weave braid with doubled embroidery floss was slightly too wide to fit on the takeup reel, and slightly too close to the torii to beat easily.

Basically, the original Japanese designer did some very clever things that got lost in the attempt to make one that looks more traditional, compounded by the fact that they were built for an experienced takadai braider, but not by one.

My mod will also add a proper gravity ratchet for the take-up reel; this is a nice simple design for small spaces.

Coming soon…

While everyone in California (and I’m pretty sure I mean everyone) was mailed a mail-in ballot, you can vote in person. I’ve confirmed that my usual polling station is one of the ones that will be open, and since work has declared election day Zoom-free, there won’t be any issues even if there is a line.

I kind of hope there’s a line…

Coming soon…

As a side project, now that I have a full-sized professional takadai, I’m going to take detailed measurements to revise the proportions I used in my OpenSCAD parametric design.

This may lead to 3D-printing a set of tinkertoy connectors for people to make a new-and-re-improved baby takadai at their local craft store.

Coming soon…

Still no sign of Jacquie Carey’s Samurai Braids book that was supposed to come out last fall, but when I opened up the new edition of Makiko Tada’s Comprehensive Treatise of Braids 1, I saw the following promising news:

Forthcoming books
Book 8: Andean Braids
Book 9: Unusual Braids - Karakumi and 3D braids
Book 10: Marudai Braids 2

Coming soon…

Speaking of braiding, during the recent AKS Virtual Gathering, I knocked together a template for making clean, print-quality takadai braiding diagrams like the ones in Tada’s books, and unlike the ones made for the babydai instructions. Sometime soon I’ll post some babydai-compatible braids that weren’t included in the instructions.

Coming soon…

It’s subtle enough that I didn’t notice until I saw them twitch during one of her idle animations, but Sucrose has dog ears. No tail, though, to ensure the loyalty of the ass-otaku crowd.

(the “futanari” tag is for one of the variations the artist did; there’s nothing about the picture or the lore to say she’s The Doggy-Girl With Something Extra)

Despite appearances, Keqing is not a catgirl; she just has a very patient hair-stylist.

So, if you want a real piece of tail, you have to wait for loli catgirl Diona’s debut.

Rotation for translation

“The call was coming from inside the house!”

Got woken up at 3am this morning by a loud party somewhere nearby. I couldn’t make out what music was playing, just that it had a beat and you could dance to it. I turned on the red-noise generator on my tablet to drown it out and went back to sleep. Sort of.

Two hours later, it’s still going on, and I can’t imagine how someone hasn’t complained. I get out of bed to look out the window and see what the hell is going on, and as my ears sort out the direction it’s coming from, it’s not from a nearby back yard.

It’s coming from almost directly beneath me.

The Echo device in my kitchen is shuffling Talking Heads songs at high volume.

I did not request this. I had not requested anything for at least two hours before this started. Around 9pm I had whimsically asked it to play songs by Talking Bunbun, which are available on last.fm but not Amazon, and The New Normal for Alexa-based devices when they can’t find what you want is to assume that anything that sounds vaguely similar is acceptable, so it started playing Talking Heads.

I said stop, at 9pm, and it stopped, at 9pm. Then it started back up on its own, at 3am. Even if I shouted in my sleep I couldn’t have told it to do that. Unlike my old haunted Ooma box, where the root cause turned out to be the top-panel LEDs generating interference with the touch panel, the most likely cause for this is Amazon’s ongoing attempts to increase sensitivity and language recognition.

I’m guessing that some random sound like the icemaker in the fridge got interpreted as the wake word, and then it went into the new “whisper” mode and invented words from background noise that got turned into a command like “resume”.

What could possibly go wrong?

“The Seattle City Council is considering new legislation that would create a legal loophole that would make substance addiction, mental illness or poverty a valid legal defense for nearly all misdemeanor crimes committed in the city.” (via)

Turn the page…

It’s not my imagination: neither of the standard reference books on takadai braiding explains how to translate their diagrams into actual physical motions to open the shed and pass bobbins through. Tada simply pairs the first few simple braids with an overhead drawing showing the matching shed, but never discusses it again, even when progressing to four-armed and two-sided braids.

Owen’s notation is slightly different, but the only reason it’s a little clearer is that his book includes photos from multiple angles, not directly tied to the brief explanation of the diagrams.

As I was tinkering with the babydai and my OmniGraffle design template, I thought of a simple way to explain how to always correctly interpret either notation: rotate the page and work your hand along the line.

That is, given this “top-down view” notation:

divide the diagram down the middle, then rotate the page 90° counter-clockwise for right-side moves and clockwise for left-side moves:

So, to twill the shed, on the right-hand gedan your hand goes over 1 under 3, over 2, under 2, and then up to the jodan to go over 3; insert the sword and pass the first gedan bobbin through to the open position on the left-hand gedan.

You could also valley-fold the diagram, but that’s not recommended for expensive imported out-of-print braiding manuals. 😁

(this is the first of eight moves in the nimai-mono braid Ryūkō-gumi, CToB4 #47)

Additivity: Dremel 3D45 preliminary review

A few quick comments on my new Dremel 3D45:

  • The documentation is laughably terrible, even supplemented by the online support pages and videos. Between the two, you can manage to get it up and running correctly, but everything was very clearly done by tech writers for a power-tool manufacturer, not by a consumer-electronics company.

  • Why, yes, I did manage to misfeed my filament the first time, resulting in a small test print that looked like it came out of one of the first low-budget 3d-printer kits on the market. Fortunately I knew what a skipping stepper motor sounded like, and was able to quickly abort the print and start over.

  • The touchscreen is kinda cheap for a $2,000 printer. Clear and bright, but only responsive to slow, firm touches. Entering my 52-character wifi password (three times) was quite painful.

  • And, yes, I had to set up wifi even though I had an ethernet cable plugged in when it booted the first time.

  • By the way, all the documentation insists that there is no LAN printing support, and that if you want to print without a USB cable or thumb-drive and watch your job through the built-in camera, you must connect to their cloud. Neither of these statements is true. Works great, auto-detects printers on the local LAN (wired or wireless), shows the progress and remaining time, and the camera even includes the filament spool in the frame so you can visually confirm that you’re not running low.

  • Also, their cloud setup got stuck in an endless SSO-auth loop. Yeah, fuck the cloud.

  • The bundled software, which initially seems a bit limited, is in fact quite competitive, being built around the open-source Cura package, which means that it includes the ability to read .fdm_material files for a wide variety of third-party filaments.

  • Dremel also supports and recommends Simplify3D, which is well-regarded despite its complete lack of anything resembling a material library. It has a basic profile for the Dremel models, but doesn’t even support the material that comes in the box.

  • That is, Dremel officially sells and supports branded PLA, PETG, Nylon, and Eco-ABS (actually a modified PLA with a confusing name), and ships the printer with one spool of Eco-ABS and one of PETG. Simplify3D’s device profile lists PLA, ABS (apparently Eco-ABS), and Nylon; they don’t include PETG in any of their profiles, and do not clearly document how to add additional materials, although they have web pages describing common parameter ranges for many generic types of filament.

  • One last note on software: Simplify3D requires an active Internet connection at all times to work, and their “free trial” involves giving them $150 up front and asking for a refund within two weeks. Yeah, fuck that.

  • Note that third-party filament, while supported, has to be rewound onto a Dremel-sized spool before use, and you’ll want to remove the RFID tag so the printer doesn’t auto-detect it as the wrong stuff. There are plenty of designs on Thingiverse for assisting with this process.

  • By the way, Dremel says they’ll send me two free rolls of filament for blogging a review of my printer. “Your proposal is acceptable. Especially since I was going to do that anyway.”

  • Update! Just noticed that Dremel’s software also auto-detects thumb-drives as a destination to save your gcode, and offers an eject button after the copy finishes. That’s convenient.

Network printing

Why, yes, I did name it Ricotta; she’s a pro maker, dawg. Er, “pro maker dog”.

The proof is in the solidified pudding

My first print job was a redesigned koma for the baby takadai. 30 minutes at medium quality, 30 more minutes after I broke one of the pins off while remembering how to cleanly remove the supports (been a few years since I used one of these, and the documentation consists only of the words “use needle nose pliers”), and I had a part that fit perfectly and worked exactly as intended.

I had it print 9 more overnight, and woke up to a full set of koma much better than what that poor woodworker had managed with a router, a drill press, and not nearly enough time to get them all out the door in time for the conference.

Note that the 3d-printed design does something that would have been a real pain with a drill press: the front pin is exactly at the front, so there’s no double-width gap between pins on adjacent koma. I swiped the idea from the Braidershand design, which gets very close to the front of the koma with their pins. Little touches like that are why their gear has an 18-month waiting list.

Second job was a gravity ratchet and pawl downloaded directly from the McMaster-Carr online catalog. I’m going to scale and recreate this design in OpenSCAD to use for the take-up reel in my next babydai mod.

Keep Calm and SOHCAHTOA

For the third job, I had a sudden inspiration about how to solve the problem of tensioned threads falling into the narrow gap between two koma: curve the ends. This took longer to work out on paper and in OpenSCAD than it took to print in high-speed draft mode (30 minutes for two).

They came out exactly how I expected, and I was quickly able to confirm that the idea was sound, but I really wanted the curved ends to go the other way…

Thirty minutes later, I had another pair of prototypes.

24-hour opinion?

At this point, I have full confidence that the Dremel 3D45 will reliably deliver excellent 3D prints with their branded filament, and that I should be able to successfully import working settings for common third-party filaments when I get around to buying some.

The hardware is solid and well-designed, the software is quite capable, the filament seems to be of decent quality (if a bit hard to find right now, between Corona-chan and their change from 500-gram spools to 750-gram), and the price is reasonable for the feature set. The packaging is excellent, by the way, and easy to reuse for travel or repair.

I haven’t used the High or Ultra quality settings yet, or increased the infill percentage; Medium/20% was smooth enough and strong enough for koma with 1/8-inch pins and small weighted tama. High-Speed (draft) is kind of ugly and a bit stringy, but does what it’s supposed to.

“The battle’s done, and we kinda won…”

My next project will be a more significant drop-in mod to the baby takadai, relocating the torii, take-up reel, and sword pads, unlocking the ability to use all those new koma I printed and make much wider braids with up to 48 weighted bobbins. I’ll be releasing the OpenSCAD models and STL files so that any of the other conference attendees can mod theirs. Given the crowd, though, I’ll likely also end up printing a few sets to send people. 😁

After that, well, as much as I love the capacity of the 22 9-pin koma on my Braidershand takadai, I also like to braid with thick yarn, and my first attempt at that made me wish I had a set of 6-pin koma with big wide gaps between pins. And since my OpenSCAD design is parametric, that’s just a few long print jobs (roughly 5 hours and 38 grams of filament, each). Hardly a project at all. I’ll probably do them in white; black would be pretty harsh against maple.

Then there’s that complete parametric takadai design I did a few years back, which could be easily framed with connectors like Jonction P. And the long list of CNC projects I still haven’t gotten to. And this idea I just had for an easy tilt/shift adapter for my Sony a6500 and an old Mamiya 6x6 lens. And…

No boxes

I briefly toyed with the idea of designing parametric boxes for tama storage, since I have large quantities of bobbins in different sizes, weights, and shapes (236 total at the moment, but there will be more someday). Then I went to Michaels, based on a tip from the recent kumihimo conference. Their 99-cent crayon boxes hold 4 standard-size tama, their $1.99 pencil boxes hold 10, a larger pencil/craft box holds 9 large tama, and somewhere else in the store I found boxes that were perfect for holding 16 of the latest thing in affordable tama (another conference tip).

I don’t think I’ll need any more tama or boxes this year, but there will come a day when I’ve got 60 of one weight on the big takadai, 39 little ones on the babydai, 32 on the big marudai, 9 on the little marudai, and three dozen cats to feed.

Corona-chan Wants Candy

Unrelated, this is the first time in 20 years that I have had zero trick-or-treaters, down from the usual ~120. I bought a few pounds of candy just in case, but especially since I’ll be working from home until June, I didn’t risk a big buy.

This just in:

Fans spinning up on your Mac laptop during high network traffic? Apple ships a user-mode driver for common USB-C and Thunderbolt docks.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”